by: Essy Jane
Dedication: This story is dedicated to Denver Pyle and Sorrell Booke who passed away from cancer. This story is also in honor of my two Grandmothers. Please make money donations to the American Cancer Society or in my case, the Canadian Cancer Society. TOGETHER, WE CAN FIND A CURE! — Miss Essy AKA Pinky Poe
I try to get him to lie down but I never could get Uncle Jesse to lie down. He’s magic…always helping never waiting for help. Uncle Jesse would drop his whole world for me if I needed him. It was like a power that I could never let go of. Every time he smiled I was sure he was alright. It was all one big nightmare, this wasn’t happening, oh but it was. This was so real yet so…unbelievable. Uncle Jesse was in a bad novel and when I closed the book, everything would be back to how it was. I didn’t want to believe it at all.
His cancer was advanced but even now he was helping people. I came back to stay with him. Daisy would have done it but I knew I couldn’t put everything off on her. Luke was just finding himself. I didn’t want him to come home either. He was married to a beautiful woman, Maria. Luke was still on the road. Uncle Jesse didn’t ever want him to give up on his dreams.
It was I who would look after my Uncle in his last days of life. I wouldn’t leave him for anything, Uncle Jesse wasn’t a porcelain doll or anything; he was still full of life. Soon though…soon he wouldn’t be the same. I walked into the kitchen as the aroma of food tickled my taste buds. He was at it again! I thought that I could keep him resting, I was mistaken. “Uncle Jesse, you don’t have to make supper for me, Nancy-Lou is coming over for dinner. I can cook,” I commented.
“I ain’t going to be a bother to no one. You shouldn’t have had to give up your singing career for me,” Uncle Jesse muttered. I couldn’t believe he had started on that again. I didn’t mind coming home. I can still sing…just not professionally. So what if I could’ve made it to the big time! Family is much more important. I loved my Uncle and I wouldn’t ever leave him in his time of need. There was nothing we could do for him but sit and wait but at least I would be there to wait.
“Uncle Jesse, you’re going to wear yourself out again…I caught you sleeping on the porch.”
“Can’t a man catch a few winks?” I was worried about him…always thinking of everyone else accept himself. “Bo, I ain’t a baby you know…the doctor told me to just keep doing what I do normally.”
“Uncle Jesse…you’re sick.” He looked up at me; those wrinkles seemed to pierce into my heart. I didn’t want him to die, the doctors told me it was only a matter of time. The cancer would keep spreading until he couldn’t even eat anymore. There was nothing they could do about it…nothing they could help me with. They didn’t catch it early enough and now I was loosing my Uncle, my very life. The one who took me in his arms when everyone else pushed me away; the one who helped me through it all. I didn’t want him to go…I couldn’t bear to think about how my life would be like.
“Nancy needs some food, I ain’t about to let that girl go hungry.”
“I would have cooked for her. Uncle Jesse, you have got to slow down whether you think I am right or not.”
“Bo, I don’t want to sit here and wait for myself to die, I know I am gonna go but I want to go out fighting.” You could see the salty tears in his eyes. He wiped them away softly. I couldn’t stand to see him cry it made me want to cry too. But as the tears sparked up for me, Uncle Jesse put an arm around me. “This kind of stuff happens Bo; you can’t stop it from happening. I know that I would like to but I just can’t. Luke can’t stop it and neither can Daisy.”
“We don’t know…really what to do. You of all people shouldn’t have to go through this.”
“Bo, I am older, I have lived my life. At least you can remember all the good times. We had a lot of good times you know.”
“Yeah but that still won’t bring you back when I need you!” Uncle Jesse looked at me and somehow I knew that he was scared. Everything about him was scared about dying, he didn’t want to leave us anymore than we wanted him to leave.
“Let’s not talk about me like I am gone though, maybe we could all go for a picnic. I just hope I make it to see Daisy’s wedding. The doctor gives me a year, let’s hope I last that long.” I started to cry, I couldn’t hold it in anymore. I hated to hear about it. This wasn’t fair! He took me in his arms and held me close. I could feel his beard tickle my cheeks. I would miss these hugs…with Uncle Jesse playing with my hair as he held me.
The man had to be a father and a mother to me in more ways than one. I would call him every night when I was still travelling. He would just listen to me talk. I could blab on about anything and he wouldn’t even yawn. Uncle Jesse would give me advice and just tell me that he loved me. Something about his trust made me feel better. Maybe I could start phoning Luke, but he’s always on the road now. I don’t even get to talk to him anymore. Sure, a rare moment on the telephone, not like Uncle Jesse and I. I could never replace that, not even if I tried.
Nancy my fiancée tries to stand by me as best as she can. Everyday she comes over and talks with me and tries to get me to share my feelings with her. Nancy-Lou is going to be a wonderful wife. She’s too beautiful and so wonderful. I wish I had her qualities…she’s so patient and so loving. At times I wonder how she holds together. You see, she loves my Uncle.
Nancy-Lou came to Hazzard hoping to seek a loving relationship with her father like she dreamed of. It came true and at the same time, I fell in love with her. I came for a visit…the old farm called my name again. I had to see Uncle Jesse and help out a bit. When I was doing the farm work, it felt right.
That was the same day Essy came over to talk to Uncle Jesse. She always played checkers with him on Tuesdays. They had fun together and that made me happy. When Essy saw me I was in a giant bear hug. She talked to me and my Uncle as she played. I had fun…but not as much fun as she had planned for Nancy-Lou and me.
Uncle Jesse and Essy played match maker for me. You see, they knew Nancy and I would get along great. Both wrote notes to Nancy-Lou and me telling us that someone had a crush on the other. It told us to meet at an old factory. Well of course we went…I saw Nancy and Nancy saw me. The door was closed and locked…the rest, history in the making. So I can thank Uncle Jesse for my future wife. I can thank him for a lot of things.
He’s helped me so much in life that it isn’t even funny. I want to repay Uncle Jesse but at the same time I don’t know how. There’s so much the man has done…what could I do for him? Even if I found out what I could do it would never be enough. Nancy walked in the door at that very moment. Uncle Jesse was just finishing the meal. Nancy had him in a hug the minute she saw him.
“Howdy Nancy, you’re early love,” Uncle Jesse commented as he took the pot off of the stove.
“Better to be early than late…I bet you wished you learned that a while ago huh honey?” Nancy-Lou joked. I could take a few jokes from my kin and even my fiancée I had to laugh. Well we sat down and ate Uncle Jesse’s famous stew. He talked and laughed along with us. At one point, Uncle Jesse and Nancy-Lou had a staring contest.
Nancy beat me in arm wrestling again. She has too much of her father in her. I loved it though…sometimes it was weird. If you think about dating your best friend it seems strange. Dating your best friend in woman form…that’s even more bizarre.
Uncle Jesse got tired suddenly as if almost by magic. “Well kids, I am gonna lay down for a while,” He said softly. He stood up and walked slowly to his room. I wanted to follow him and make sure everything was okay but that talk we had earlier stopped me. He wasn’t a baby and I knew that. Nevertheless I was still worried about my Uncle…you would be too. I wanted to just spend time with him and talk his ear off…at the same time I wanted him to rest.
“Are you okay Bo?” Nancy-Lou asked. Looking at her made me realize how much time I had left…looking at her made me wonder what was my life going to be like? “Bo, I know that this is scary and I know that you’re hiding your fears in a lot of ways.” How could she possibly know what I was afraid of? It was like the world was against my Uncle. He did so much and this is how he gets repaid? I didn’t like it one bit. He didn’t deserve to die! I suppose I was still in denial but you know I have a right to be.
“I talked to him about how I was feeling…I held it back for so long. I finally talk to him about it and I still don’t feel relief. I shouldn’t be complaining about this…I am sorry Nancy. It seems really selfish of me I mean, he’s in pain and here I am talking about how I don’t want him to leave me,” I replied.
“Now Beauregard Duke, I don’t want to hear you say anything like that again, do you hear me? You ain’t complaining about it. You’re upset and afraid. I would personally have been upset too.”
“Nancy, I don’t know what to do anymore…everything is a mess.”
“You have always known what to do with him and now you’re stuck in a way. Now Bo, I want you to go and take a drive, I will stay here and keep an eye on things. When you get back, go take a horseback ride. That has seemed to clear my head a lot since I came here.”
“I couldn’t leave all my burdens on you.”
“Watching your place and having Jesse for company ain’t a burden. Now you get going or else.” I smiled at her and gave Nancy-Lou a big kiss. I pulled her in towards me and held her close…I needed her right now and I couldn’t deny that. I also knew she was right. I needed to clear my head and the best way to do it was to drive. I let go of her and pulled my lips away though I found it hard.
“You’re wonderful you know that?” I got into the General and smiled at her. I held her hand, not wanting to let go.
“You just keep your mind on the road. I know when you’re upset you seem to get in trouble with the law.” She pulled my hand off of hers and put it on the steering wheel.
“No problem, I will keep that in mind.” I started up the engine and heard the roar of it. The new parts Cooter gave me were amazing. I could hear the difference in the engine and I bet it was faster…I just hadn’t had the chance to test it. The wind ran though my hair as I sped up. Oh I loved the feel of the turns…this is perfect. I saw the opportunity for a jump and of course I had to take it. I went up higher and higher, the landing wasn’t bad either.
You know what was the best about this? I wasn’t on probation. I could take a way longer drive than I could normally. I really was glad I was back in Hazzard. It had been so long…too long. Now I was here and remembering every memory that I ever had. Driving had become some of the best memories in my heart. Luke sitting beside me and just talking with him was wonderful. Sometimes we had Uncle Jesse with us and we’d be on the run…but it was still fun time.
Well of course something always happened on one of my drives. There was someone at the side of the road trying to fix their car by themselves. A young woman about 18 years old; she was crying. I didn’t think it would be a good idea if I left her out there. I pulled off to the side of the road and got out slowly. She wiped away her tears and looked at my car. “Do you need some help ma’am?” I asked softly. She looked up at me and smiled.
“I thought that no one was gonna come along. My car just suddenly died and I don’t know what’s wrong with it,” she replied. I looked under the hood and did a little bit of this and that. I could tell what was wrong of course and it wouldn’t take me long. I started it up and of course it purred like a tiny kitten.
“Oh thank you, you have no idea how grateful I am.”
“It’s not a problem ma’am.”
“I got to do something to repay you…but what?”
“Just your gratitude is enough for me. Now are you gonna be okay or do you need me to drive you to where you’re going?”
“Oh no, sir, I am fine. Thank you though.” With that, the woman was back in her car driving away. I had made a difference. Something about that made me feel better about my life, how things were going to go. I had to drive back, no more driving for me. I had to spend more time with my Uncle and help him…not by doing everything for him but by being there. That’s all I could do and I knew it.
Time passed slowly…days seemed like years to me. I wanted it to go slower even still but old father time wouldn’t give me a few minutes even if I asked for them. Uncle Jesse and I were sitting in the old fishing spot almost nodding off. I dipped my feet into the cool water and my boot began to suck up water like a vacuum picking up dirt. Uncle Jesse seems to tap his foot lightly…he never did have to say a word. I took my foot out of the water and took off my soft worn cowboy boots.
He gave me that look as I pulled off my socks. “You’re a born country boy,” Uncle Jesse chuckled. I dusted the lint out of each one of my toes and cleaned my hands off in the water. “You’re gonna scare all the fish away. I want to catch a whopper.”
“Well it will be just like old times then,” I replied.
“You’re a lot older now…you have caught a lot of fish in all these years.”
“Not half as many as you have caught.”
“I taught you all the skills and now you just need to use them…remember my patience…it will come in handy when you have kids.”
“I don’t think I will have kids.”
“Bo, you’re like my own son…I would never trade any of those moments with you for anything in the world. You need to have kids. You have that knack for it…you’re a special person Beauregard…you need to share yourself with kids.”
“What if I mess up?”
“I suppose I should let you in on a little secret. Everyone messes up. I mean…I messed up.”
“No you didn’t…you were an amazing father. You didn’t do things wrong. You were always great with us.”
“Bo, you saw the version of me after I had that practice on Luke…I was a scared and nervous man. All I could guarantee was that I would take care of you kids as best as I could. You were my greatest joy in the world. I would never ever have thought that I could be good to you kids. I was wild…reckless especially before my parents died.”
“You reckless…I can’t see that.”
“We’re too much alike and I hope you have the same fun.” My line began to move. I reeled it in as Uncle Jesse got the net. It was a big one. “You youngins get all the luck. But this is fun.” Catching fish was the fondest memory I had with my Uncle. I remember the first time I went with Luke and Uncle Jesse. I didn’t catch anything but I had a lot of fun.
Uncle Jesse took the hook out for me. It wasn’t the big fish that he wanted but it was still a fish. We sat back down again and just listened to the wind run through the big trees. It was magical…it was beautiful. I had never been able to just sit there and listen to that kind of thing. Now it was like I was patient…I could do things that I didn’t think were possible. I could just think or do things for a long amount of time.
I wondered if Uncle Jesse was right about me having children. I didn’t think I would be good at it. I mean if you think about it, I barely have myself trained. Who is to say that I could potty train children? How could I tell him not to eat something on the floor when I am tempted to do it myself? Raising a kid would be hard…I don’t know if I am wrong about these feelings. Maybe I will try it, it would be a life skill but it could also drive me into the ground.
“Have the kid,” Uncle Jesse said almost as if he was reading my mind. I couldn’t believe he guessed what I was thinking. “Bo, some looks that y’all give are easy to read. Now, I want to catch that fish…so hush for a minute.” I went completely quiet simply concentrating on his breathing. The wind over taking every aspect of it making it harder to think about it; the fishing pole jerked hard. It was his big fish…he got his wish. This one was so big that he could barely reel it out.
Uncle Jesse fought for that fish as the sweat rolled down his face. I was going to ask him if he needed my help but I knew he would say no so there was no point. I got the net as he continued to struggle. Uncle Jesse had to win this fish on his own…not with my help. It was like a legacy to him to be able to just do things on his own. To have that one moment to himself; Uncle Jesse looked like a boy again. He looked like the young man that my Aunts say he was. I couldn’t help but smile at him for his courage and strength.
He finally reeled the fish in and I placed it in the net. He fell to the ground panting and out of breath. But the look in Uncle Jesse’s eyes were never about to be forgotten. He smiled at me and I at him. This was a remarkable day indeed. “You look exhausted,” I mumbled foolishly.
“Exhausted and loving it boy,” Uncle Jesse answered. He looked at the large fish in the net. “We’ve got to catch at least three more, we’re having Cooter and Nancy coming over. With Cooter eating I would be surprised if these four would last us. I want to mount this one on the wall.”
“Oh that we will, that we will.” As we head home we had 12 big giant ones in the cooler. We had gutted them already and they were now ready to cook. I would barbeque them. When you live with an Uncle like I have his traits rub off on you…including many of his famous recipes.
Well the night was young and the music blared in the background. Uncle Jesse was laughing and talking with Nancy-Lou and Cooter. I danced to the music shaking my tail. I knew Nancy was looking so it made it even more fun to dance. She laughed and blushed…I could see it out of the corner of my eye. “I am glad that you finally said yes to those two getting married,” Uncle Jesse commented.
“Well, it’s hard when one of your best friends asks for your daughter’s hand in marriage. Bo and Nancy…those are two people that I didn’t expect to fall in love,” Cooter answers.
“You would think we weren’t here,” Nancy-Lou muttered.
“You are sweetheart…I didn’t say you weren’t.”
“No you didn’t. But you know what? I am glad Bo and I fell in love…he’s turned my practical side upside down and I turned his patient side up.”
“Well at least you two love each other…I can say that about you.”
“Yes we do.” Nancy leaned in and gave me a big kiss. My heart rate seemed to speed up almost instantly. I began to feel warm all over. She let go and I was in awe. “He’s a wonderful man.” I was being picked on here…not that I didn’t like being picked on. Suddenly I heard the engine of Dixie pulling up in the drive. How could I tell it was Daisy’s car? Well I have heard it so much that if I didn’t know you would be worried.
Daisy had been crying but she wiped away her tears. I could see Jaime-Lee Hogg coming in with a present. He always seemed to bring one for Uncle Jesse when he came. I don’t know if he couldn’t deal with something or he felt guilty so he brought a present. Daisy was in Jaime’s arms as usual…clenching onto his waist.
“Welcome Daisy…Jaime,” Uncle Jesse commented. He looked at her and knew that look. “Daisy…Bo, my medicine is in the house would you two go and get it for me?” I knew what that meant. Uncle Jesse wanted me to test those new found skills. I wondered if I had it in me. He was so much stronger than me and knew how to deal with things. I took Daisy inside nonetheless and looked at her.
“Bo…I don’t know what to do anymore,” She cried. Daisy buried her face in her hands. She used to do that when we were younger so people wouldn’t see her cry. I remembered what Uncle Jesse used to do. I cupped my hand on her jaw and tilted her head up. “He…shouldn’t be going through this. Why not someone who deserves in like the bad guys y’all fought?”
“Daisy Duke!” I exclaimed.
“Well I wish that it wasn’t him…I wish it was someone else. Somebody that has done him wrong…someone who made him feel like nothing.”
Now Daisy that’s wrong…you shouldn’t put that fate on anyone.”
“Why shouldn’t I condemn someone Bo? Why shouldn’t they feel the pain…the horror that he is? Why should he be feeling that pain?”
“Uncle Jesse would have been ashamed if he heard those words from your lips. How dare you even think of such a thing! I am not impressed…I know that this is scary but you should never think of such things.”
Daisy looked at me and knew I was right. I wondered what her next response would be. As I heard straight and utter silence my heart ran cold. I didn’t know if I had upset her to the point of no return or if she was just thinking about what I told her.
Uncle Jesse should be doing this…he would be much better at it than I. He would know just how to comfort her. I knew that if I called him he wouldn’t come in. Uncle Jesse wanted me to learn another one of those life lessons that were gonna keep me trailing down the right track but would it work? I don’t know…I can’t see being a father and I certainly can’t see myself doing this.
I didn’t know if right then I should say something or keep quiet. The silence was driving me up the wall. I looked out the window to see my Uncle and knew he would never give up on us no matter what we said. He would say something to me all the time to make me feel better and now it was my turn.
I thought of Luke at that point. How mature he was compared to me. I wondered if I would ever be that good to a wife. He was a wonderful husband. Luke had great advice…I sure could use some of that right now. Just to know how to tell Daisy that it would be okay. I couldn’t seem to find the words.
I finally opened my mouth. “Daisy…I know you’re hurt and I know that Uncle Jesse loves you. I know I had the same feelings about what was going on. Uncle Jesse told me one thing when Aunt Patty died, babies are born everyday and people die everyday. Don’t think about it though…he’s still alive! Stop pretending he’s dead,” I said.
“He doesn’t deserve this,” Daisy mumbled.
“I know that better than anyone Daisy…You have to know that he loves you more than anything.”
“Who am I gonna call when I need someone? When he’s gone…”
“Daisy…you can call me.” Did I just say that? Could I help her with her problems? I could try, I suppose. I am good with helping kids supposedly. Luke was better at this stuff than I was. Daisy could always go to him if I was wrong. Well that is if she could ever find him. I don’t know…I am too judgmental for this task.
“Bo…I could call you. Wouldn’t that be inconveniencing you though?”
“Daisy, you’re family. I would drop it all for one moment of conversation with you.” Daisy had me in a bear hug. Did I do it right? I guess so. I got Uncle Jesse’s medicine and brought it to him. Daisy was by far the strongest so I thought. Out of Luke and Daisy I wouldn’t be able to choose who was stronger. Now as I saw her fears I knew she wasn’t robo-chick…or anything like that. Daisy did have emotions.
I suppose I was doing a better job than I thought I could. I had a new found feeling of confidence. Daisy looked happy when she came out. She was talking about her wedding though she seemed uneasy. I could understand why Daisy felt this way. Jaime kept his mouth going about it. The wedding was in two weeks and everyone hoped that Uncle Jesse wouldn’t be too sick by then. He already had to take more naps than usual.
After everyone went home, I cleaned up the mess that they wanted to help me clean. I didn’t mind cleaning. I loved the quiet that was around me. I suppose it was good to have that brief moment where everything was okay. It began to rain as the dark clouds covered over my head. I could feel the chill in the air. I didn’t know how long it was gonna rain. Lightning struck and like a little kid I became frightened.
I could run into the house but these plates wouldn’t clear themselves. I piled them on top of each other. The thunder crackled again. Well, I got all the plates. Now to get out of the rain before I catch my death. The house wasn’t too far but I tripped over something and hit my head. My head filled with a grey haze.
When I awoke, the room was dark. I opened my eyes slowly and looked into the shadows. I rubbed my eyes softly and saw a yellow tinge to the room. I tried to sit up but was pushed down by a strong arm. “Lie down and don’t move,” Cooter muttered. He yawned and pushed back his hair. What was going on? I tried to talk but all that came out was coughs. “When you’re being a house keeper in the rain, you’re bound to have an accident Bo. I am just sorry it had to happen.” Now I really wanted to know what was going on. “Nancy-Lou will be happy to know you’re awake and so will everyone else. Just to let you know, you had your head shaved. Doc told us you had a blood build up and it wasn’t good for your head. They had to operate. Daisy cancelled the wedding and Nancy is taking care of Uncle Jesse.”
“I ain’t your Uncle Jesse boy,” Uncle Jesse snapped. He was in a wheelchair now and my dear Uncle looked pale. My eyes widened at the sight of him. “Don’t give me that look Bo. You told me to realize my limitations and I did. Walking just ain’t an option anymore.”
“He couldn’t stay away Daddy, I tried but you know how he is,” Nancy mumbled.
“Yeah, this man is stubborn as a dang mule! Uncle Jesse, can’t you listen to anyone?” Cooter commented.
“My boy is in the hospital. I ain’t about to stay away from him. Luke and everyone else want to see him.” Uncle Jesse looked directly at me. “Your cousin phoned about a week ago, Bo he was so scared that he’s coming down. I told him not to worry because you were strong. You gave us a scare Bo Duke.” From the knowledge I have right now, I hit my head and was driven to the hospital. I had my head cut open due to bleeding in the brain. What else was wrong with me though? Something else had to be going on.
“Well he had his brain tampered with.”
“Not to mention the pneumonia. His heart was beating slower than a turtle walks when I found him.” Every one of them was looking at me funny. How many days or weeks for that matter was I out? Luke came running in and a nurse followed behind him.
“There are too many people in this room. Two of you are gonna have to leave,” The nurse commanded. Nancy and Cooter walked out of the room and joined Maria in the waiting room.
“Don’t you ever scare me like that again Bo Duke,” Luke blurted out. This I suppose in Luke language means hello.
“Great to see you too Luke,” I whispered. Finally there was something other than coughing coming out of this mouth of mine. Luke shook his head at me. He looked at me as if I was his child. I wasn’t a kid anymore. I don’t think he should be treating me like that.
“You were unconscious for a month and I phoned last week. No one knew where to contact me. When I heard about you, I was sure you were gonna die. It made me think Bo. Maybe I shouldn’t be doing this on the road thing.”
“No, I have got to get this out. All this time I have been burdening you with these feelings. You have been playing my part when you shouldn’t be. Bo, I shouldn’t have made you do this.” Oh I knew this was gonna happen. Suddenly because I am in the hospital Luke has to get all defensive? I tripped. So what? I can’t change the fact that it happened. I can’t change the fact that I am in this hospital. I wanted to change his attitude though. This was the best way to do it.
“Now I have to get something out,” I said, my voice rose as I talked– “You think that I am some baby. Wake up Luke; I am older and wiser than I once was. I know you think I can’t handle taking care of my own shadow but I am a little bit better than you think! We have this all settled out and I don’t need you to come in here and treat me like I am a three year old. Luke, I am old enough to do what I need to do.”
Luke just stared at me. He was speechless and I was glad. I did love him and all but sometimes he played hero just a little too much. It was a way he covered up his feelings and I knew that as well as Uncle Jesse did. Luke played hero in the marines to stay alive. He fought for his country. Everybody in the marines thought he was the strongest, toughest man out there. Inside, Luke was always screaming.
I guess sometimes people find a way to deal with things that isn’t always correct. I try to be open. If I am not open about something, Nancy-Lou will beat it out of me. I guess I have someone. I wish Luke would think about having Maria as his shoulder like he did with me before the war. I guess he was just too strong for that. Luke didn’t want to make people think he was weak. Being a marine does something to a man. It changes him. Then again wars, hatred, fear and doubt leads to horrors in any man’s heart.
Luke was about to leave when I grabbed his pale shirt and turned him around. I looked him straight in the eye, the same as he did to me when my cousin told me he was going to war. We just looked into each other’s eyes for a moment. It was almost like both of us were striving for power. There was a cloud in Luke’s eyes. It was hiding the sunlight, the very soul of his feelings. Luke tried to pull away but it was no use, I was already into his soul. I could already see what my cousin had been hiding all along.
“Don’t you dare run away Luke, I still want you around and your family needs you. Just don’t do this because you think I can’t handle it,” I finally said.
“Bo?” He mumbled.
“You really have changed.”
“I am glad you see that.” After two weeks of lying around, I was out of the hospital and once again, Daisy’s wedding was on. Uncle Jesse was getting worse and worse. I could sense it though he was hiding it nicely. He had lost a few pounds but kept his smiling cheeks. I stayed beside him even through all those wedding preparations I wish I could have helped with.
I told him stories about things I did in school. Uncle Jesse lied back and listened as he always had. I loved to talk to him. Uncle Jesse told me stories in return. I really didn’t know that he was so reckless. Like for instance, he went with his best friend Jeff (Boss JD Hogg himself) played a prank on the school teacher. They put a cherry bomb in the outhouse. Of course the head master found out and gave them both the strap. Jeff put books down his pants. Uncle Jesse took his punishment like a man. Boss Hogg never was one for pain.
Daisy’s wedding was here. I was wearing a tuxedo. Lulu took care of all the arrangements. Boss Hogg was a little sore about Jaime choosing to marry Daisy after all they had been through the first time they were gonna tie the knot. I had accepted the decision as my sweet Uncle had asked me to. I wondered if he would be a good husband to her. Who knows? I suppose I would just have to wait and see.
Uncle Jesse’s suit was measured when they were supposed to have the wedding. The suit would be a bit big on him. I knocked on his door and opened it. He wasn’t sitting up. In fact, Uncle Jesse looked like he wasn’t going to be able to get out of bed. “Uncle Jesse, should I call the doctor?” I asked.
“No boy. Bo, there is a problem though; I want you to walk Daisy down the aisle. Me in this condition just ain’t gonna cut it,” He replied.
“What do you mean no?”
“This is your last moment. You ain’t gonna make it to my wedding. You ain’t gonna make that speech like you did at Luke’s wedding. This is the last wedding you’re gonna be at. You need to walk her. I will even push you.”
“I know what you’re gonna say. You don’t want me to think about that.”
“No, that’s not it this time. I was gonna say, I’ll be there in spirit. I will be lookin’ out for you even after I am gone. Though you ain’t about to see me I will be holding the back of your shoulders. Even if I got to plea with the almighty himself, I will be there.” My eyes filled with tears. I didn’t have to worry anymore. I guess that was my biggest fear, not having him there for my wedding. He was there for Luke and now for Daisy. Uncle Jesse was the best man at my father’s wedding. Not only that, Uncle Jesse had been there for every major event. My very first race was supervised by him. When I had my first kiss he was watching over me through the bushes. He had that talk with me about girls and soon everything made sense. Everything around me Uncle Jesse has witnessed (Well almost everything). Now, he was going.
It’ll be weird not having him around. The little things are always the worst. Birthday parties when Uncle Jesse won’t be there to cut the cake. At Christmas when my sweet Uncle won’t be there to read the Christmas story to us. Then there’s Thanksgiving where he won’t be there to give that first toast. I don’t know how I am going to work through this but somehow I will…I hope.
The wedding was at the Boar’s Nest. The preacher stood tall and happy. Uncle Jesse sat slouched in the chair. The suit looked like a choir robe on his body. I didn’t say anything about it. I knew that my dear Uncle already realized this. He shakily put on a flower pin on his left side. Daisy knocked on the outside of Boss Hogg’s office and opened it.
“Daisy, close that. The bride ain’t supposed to be seen before the wedding,” Uncle Jesse mumbled.
“Oh Uncle Jesse, I am so nervous,” Daisy answered.
“What’s there to be nervous about?”
“Tripping down the aisle, forgetting to say I do.”
Uncle Jesse shook his head almost like he could remember having the butterflies himself. Uncle Jesse had me wheel him in. He looked into Daisy’s eyes the way he always did when he knew we were gonna do great. Somehow, Uncle Jesse made everything better. When we went out of the room, he looked at me. “Bo, you know what to do. I have taught you all the good standards and values I have. I have taught you how to be a good parent, friend and listener. I have taught you all the lessons you need. Even Luke needs you right now and is going to continue to need someone.”
“Luke seems fine,” I answered numbly.
“One day Bo, you’ll see through him like a book.”
“I ain’t cut out for this…I don’t know what I am doing.”
“You know better than I do Bo.”
“You’re just saying that.”
“No really, you know what to say. Listen to your heart; let it guide you through good times and bad. Don’t forget to listen to your head too. I know you won’t forget.” How could I forget? Uncle Jesse put a beautiful memory into my head. It was almost like I was watching movie after movie of things that had happened. Instead they were beautiful memories. It’s funny how memories work. Sometimes people hold grudges for years and afterwards don’t even know what they’re fighting about. Some people keep the memory of the good times and others remember the bad.
Today was a good memory, Daisy getting married. Enos was crying in the front with his fiancée Roxanne. Boss Hogg had a hotdog in one hand and Lulu in the other. Rosco held one of Flash’s puppies, Flash the second. The puppy was two years old. Flash the second barked at Boss a few times. Like mother like daughter I guess. The flower girl went down the aisle. I looked toward my cousin and his wife just sitting there. Luke was twisting a hanky in his hands. Maria reached over and steadied his arm. I could see through him. Luke was upset about something but I really didn’t have time to stop the wedding and ask him.
The bride’s maids made their way down the aisle. Soon the wedding music was being played. Boss got a jazz band of retired soldiers to play for her wedding. Why? To save money of course yes, Boss was that cheap. That band played the wedding march jazz style. Daisy liked it…a little bit. Uncle Jesse and I guided Daisy down the aisle. Everyone stood up for her. She was beautiful. Aunt Livonia’s dress looked perfect on her. Everyone sat down as they reached the front. “Dearly beloved, we are gathered in the presence of our holy father to wed these two fine people in holy matrimony. Marriage is a holy bond, a beautiful commitment between two people. Jaime-Lee Hogg and Daisy Duke decided to open their hearts and souls to each other and become one. Who gives this woman to this man?” The Minister began.
“I do, with all my heart,” Uncle Jesse replied.
“Do you, Daisy Duke take this man Jaime-Lee Hogg to love and cherish, in sickness and in health for as long as you both shall live?”
“I do,” Daisy Duke answered.
“Do you, Jaime-Lee Hogg take this woman Daisy Duke to love and cherish, in sickness and in health for as long as you both shall live?”
“Oh I do,” Jaime responded.
“By the power invested in me and by the laws of the state itself, I now pronounce you man and wife. Jaime, you may now kiss the bride.” They began to kiss. Uncle Jesse tapped me on the shoulder.
“Bo, I have decided something. I want to wait for my first Great nephew. I ain’t about to die until I see him or her. Knowing Daisy, she’ll have one right off the bat and I don’t wanna miss seeing the child. It’ll kind of be like having a Grandchild since I am so close to you kids,” Uncle Jesse said. I knew he was stubborn enough to live that long but he was quite sick. Uncle Jesse wanted to do it though and whatever that man wanted he would get.
Nine months passed by quickly and though Uncle Jesse had become way thinner, he was still alive. The doctor said it was amazing. The cancer growth in Uncle Jesse’s body had slowed. Now my dear Uncle was expected to live another three years. You should have seen him. He was happy and such a good sport about everything. Life seemed to be going good. I had a new little cousin, Lilly-Rose Hogg. Daisy said, “At least if she’s gonna have a last name like Hogg, she can have a beautiful first name.” The child was everything I had expected. Gorgeousness to beat any other new born in town and young Lilly-Rose seemed to have smarts too. Uncle Jesse held the child in his arms and looked upon her small face.
“You know what’s good about children?” Uncle Jesse commented.
“What?” I asked.
“Adults feel like they have accomplished something with every smile they get.”
“She’s so beautiful.”
“Yep Bo and you’re gonna have four just like her.” I had to laugh. Four kids was something that was highly unlikely. Do you think for one minute that I would have four children? I didn’t think so. There’s no way that I could have that many. Think about it, Bo and four kids. Well if they were goats I could believe it. I could deal with four goats any day. Their mother would help them along. Four children was another story.
“Yeah, maybe I will.”
“Maybe? You’re handing in the white flag already. When you get married boy, Nancy’s gonna want kids.”
“I know, I know.”
“You should plan a date.”
“We said that we were gonna wait until things blew over. Luke and Maria are in Nashville singing in bars and such. They’re a fine couple you know.” Maria and Luke weren’t about to come to our wedding, they had better things to do. If you think about it, the only reason Luke and Maria came back for that little while was because I got hurt. “I just don’t want to ruin what times they have over there. Luke’s writing the music and Maria the lyrics. I am tellin’ ya, they need to get started with their career before we consider anything.”
“Bo, you have the jitters.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Uncle Jesse put the baby in a bassinet that he had once used for all of us youngins. I loved babysitting Daisy’s daughter. She fell asleep almost instantly.
“You’re afraid of marriage.” I am not! I’m not afraid of anything. Marriage is nothing to fear. I just don’t wanna go anywhere yet. What if I can’t find a good job? I have a record. I mean, who could possibly get a job with a record? The only one I could get is farming. That could even fail.
”Oh Uncle Jesse, I ain’t ever been afraid of marrying Nancy-Lou.”
“Bo, you have always had a big heart. Your mind has always been at ease. You are a wonderful person. I know you want to wait for things to happen.”
“I just wanna know we can be secure. I have been savin’ up for the wedding she deserves. I don’t wanna make anyone do a bunch of work for us. Think about it, Lulu did Daisy’s wedding because of Jaime. There’s no one to do mine. I don’t dare wanna ask Lulu for help with mine.”
“You’re way too much like me. That pride’s always gonna get in the way.” I guess I was like him. Uncle Jesse hates asking for money. He would rather die than get a grant from the government. I suppose I am the same way. I wanna be able to afford things. I also wanted to do something with my Uncle to make sure he smiled one more time. I had an idea, a very interesting idea; I would take him to the mountains, the Rocky Mountains. He always talked about going there.
My parents and Luke’s parents went up there one weekend. Of course that weekend ended up in tragedy. My Dad died and Luke’s Mama died. Mother died giving birth to me a year before the accident. When I was considered parentless,
Luke’s Dad left. Uncle Jake blamed himself for killing the two people that meant a great deal in his life. Luke blamed his father for many things, including burdening Uncle Jesse with my cousin’s presence. Luke used to say, “This shouldn’t have happened. Uncle Jesse should have had his own kids and lived his own life instead, he took care of us.” Uncle Jesse loved caring for us.
Four months had passed. As Uncle Jesse had predicted, I started getting the phone calls that he got. Daisy called me when Lilly wouldn’t settle down one night. I sang her a song over the phone. Luke also had a problem. He couldn’t seem to rhyme his last verse at all. I talked him through it over the phone.
Uncle Jesse’s cancer had become worse. Now my dear Uncle couldn’t talk anymore. The IV in his arm was the only thing keeping him alive. It was going to be the hardest thing I would ever have to see, my Uncle starve to death. He was suffering though. Every moment was horrible for Uncle Jesse and I couldn’t take it. We had to take him off of it. Cancer was the worst thing on earth. It had taken a decent man and turned into a hollow shell of nothing. A person who was so wonderful was suffering. I was here left to watch. Uncle Jesse wrote me a letter a few months ago and told me not to open it until he passed away. I kept eyeing that letter everyday. I didn’t want to have the chance to open it. I wanted to burn it. I just kept thinking that was a symbol of his death.
Fallen heroes tunes sung often but never shared. Life taken for granted but now being used to the fullest, moments remembered and memories become united. Life pouring out of one but life lighting up within another person. Driving new people into old positions. No matter what we try it happens everyday.
One morning I went to wake my Uncle up and I couldn’t. I must have sat on the porch for an hour just crying. He was gone. He lived long enough to help us be okay on our own. I wished he would have lived longer. He lived long enough to help me pick a day, March 12th 1989. We would get married and have children.
I opened up the letter and began to read it:
I am glad I got the chance to know such wonderful souls how to live. You boys were the only real sons I had. To have you boys growing up in my home has made me the happiest man on earth. I love to hold you both in my arms. You two have done well for yourselves. Luke has become an amazing boy. You have learned so much.
Now, you’re here to finish my legacy. Bo, I know this will seem weird to you but I have to ask of you a favour. I would like you to use my CB handle. From now on, let yourself be known as Shepard. You have been one of the most special people in my life and to have you carry on this tradition would make me the happiest man on earth.
Place your family first constantly and you will always have me with you in everything you do. Love and care for those left behind. You know what to do Bo, just do it. Don’t loose that special quality that made Nancy-Lou fall in love with you. Don’t loose the quality that draws Daisy to talk to you or Luke to spend time with you. Don’t ever think you’re less than anyone else.
Oh and don’t forget to wipe your feet before entering the farmhouse. That is important. Show a good example.
I love you very much.
Yours always and forever,
The funeral was packed full with people Uncle Jesse had touched. Family cried but I had no tears in my eyes. Luke sobbed on my shoulder. Daisy couldn’t leave without talking to me. I didn’t need to say goodbye. He lived in my memory.